Ze Zumbo conquers Melbourne with a visually kaleidoscopic dessert experience.
South Yarra and its Chapel Street precinct is Melbourne’s Rodeo Drive – home to frenetic shopping, orange tanned bodies, boozy nights, big brands, big hair, bigger cars and cash. A distance away from the bustling shopping area, in late 2013, Zumbo (fina-effing-ly) arrived to conquer Melbourne with his signature overdose of garish, utterly unsubtle visual decorating and his kaleidoscopic array of cakes, macarons and sweet things. For those not quite attuned with the dessert world, Zumbo is to Sydney, what Burch & Purchese is to Melbourne. Dessert King. Pastries of the breakfast variety, artistically-crafted miniature cakes, supersized celebration cakes, fifty shades of macarons — you want it, it’s here.
Over the course of as many visits as should be deserving of VIP loyalty status, these Dessert Correspondents had just managed to sample the range of cakes available…when the seasons changed, and in came, yet another rotation of new cakes. Fail. As such, the below review is somewhat dated, but we would recommend that you look out for the return of the four most interesting cakes sampled since the shop’s opening.
The first is the “Annoying Orange Cake” ($9), a glaring, prison-jumpsuit-orange ball of chocolate mousse, with hints of clove, and a centre of orange caramel, olive sable and chocolate cake. Annoyingly delicious.
The “Wassaup-bi Cake” ($9) is one of the most curious cake experiments we have sampled. Reflecting an East-meets-West identity, there was banana bread, peanut crunch, banana jelly, chiffon cake, wasabi ganache, peanut cream, and red bean paste. The peppery twang of wasabi served to cut through the mushy banana-ness that somewhat overwhelmed the other elements of this cake. Nonetheless, most curious.
Resembling an underwater coral formation of sorts, the “Secret Business Carrot Cake” ($9) comprised a cheesecake base, layered with tempered white chocolate, lemon curd droplets and sponges of carrot cake and candied carrots.
The “Non Che Nudo Ka” ($9) was another ball mousse-cake, though in our opinion, the better of its above-noted orange counterpart. A lighter option, bergamot mousse was built on a base of flourless chocolate cake, and possessed a centre of vanilla macaron mix almond milk and olive oil gel.
The much-talked about “Zonut” was worthy of the hype. Pictured below is the peanut butter/jelly, absolutely sugar and cinnamon-coated version. Do you see the smiley face in its cross-section? It’s smiling at you knowingly as you eat it…oh you diabetic pig.
As reviewed previously, the “Zumbarons” are not in our opinion, the best macarons. However, the extensive range of flavours available, and the fact that each flavour is expressed as well as it declares to be, still makes macarons from Zumbo some of the better macarons around, and in any case, certainly worthy of saving that little extra stomach space. The “Salted Butter Popcorn”, “Apple Pie,” “Pandan and Sticky Rice,” and the “Fingerbun” macarons are our top recommendations of the macarons on offer at Zumbo. However, adventurous dessert lovers are directed to at least try the “Vegemite” or the “Meat Pie and Sauce” macaron.
Zumbo is not for the lover of traditional desserts — if you are looking for proper tea cakes, traditional French patisserie items or classical flavours, venture elsewhere. Rather, Zumbo is a place for those who are keen to see the new decade of dessert craftsmanship in action, and explore new, sometimes out-of-this-world flavour combinations. Certainly in most cases, Zumbo infuses his creations with bold and loud flavours, compared to the more muted, overcomplicated tones of cakes from the other new-century dessert king (Burch & Purchese), Sydney or Melbourne, Zumbo tantalises with a visually psychedelic experience. It should not be missed.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12-14 Claremont Street, South Yarra, Vic 3141.
- ☑ Budget: $$
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Cake, macarons.
- ☑ Must-eat: The Pandan & Sticky Rice, Fingerbun, and Salted Popcorn Macarons. The Zonut.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Ze Zumbo conquers Melbourne with a visually kaleidoscopic dessert experience.